Arts & Entertainment, Film and TV

Guns and sorrow

The Hollywood summer marketing machine has shifted its focus from the teenage audience back to an audience that wants quality movies. What a relief; Enter The American.

The premise is simple: Jack (George Clooney), a shady veteran spy with a knack for assembling weapons, is asked to build a rifle to very precise specifications. As you might have guessed, the weapon modification is illegal, so both Jack and Pavel (Johan Leysen) live in a perpetual state of seclusion and paranoia. Normally this type of gun request would be standard procedure for Jack, but a recent mishap that left his lover dead has caused him to, in Pavel’s words, “lose his edge.”             Although Jack has been instructed never to get too close to anyone, he slowly opens up to Father Benedetto (Paolo Bonacelli) and Clara (Violante Placido), a local prostitute. A romance forms with Clara, but neither are able to assess how serious the other wants the relationship to be. The priest, despite claiming that he “sees everything,” is also not without sin.

The movie is slow, as the camera lingers on faces and locations for effect. Conversations are concise and to the point—dialogue rarely involves more than two characters at a time. Social interaction seems to be a tool to get a job accomplished. To the characters, friendly chit-chat is frivolous.

Clooney knows how to play Clooney, and he takes his role almost too seriously. His character is a gloomy, one-dimensional bore unless he is talking about his weapons—something the mere mention of which always excites him. After seeing Clooney thrillers like Syriana and Michael Clayton, his style of acting in The American isn’t as robust as it could be. Here he only shows different shades of angry. Sometimes it’s a well-placed curse, sometimes a witty remark, other times a disapproving stare. He does this well, but it’s nothing new.

As a film, The American didn’t do anything wrong, and there was nothing in it to dislike. It’s a very specific study of a lonely, introspective man. However, it had no lingering effect after it ended. It wrapped itself up too nicely: no mess, no unanswered questions, no need for any further discussion.

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